I’ve been reading and watching developments around Sebastian Coe with a horrible sinking feeling. I can’t emphasise what a hero he was to me when I was growing up. The rivalry with Steve Ovett (Boo! Hiss!), how he glided effortlessly across the track, the world records that tumbled, the gold medals, I could go on. He spurred me on to start running, ironically at Steve Ovett’s track in Brighton. A few summers of this soon made me realise there was a huge chasm in talent between Seb and me, that said I still run and love it. Thank you Seb.
There has been a series of (mainly sporting) falls from grace. Seb Coe is the one that saddens me most, but as I read Matthew Syed, there are big days ahead for Seb as he faces the parliamentary committee. Matthew states that it just needs one emphatic “Sorry, I made a mistake” but that has been hard for him to utter. Rather than doing the right thing it feels like he has been pushed into a corner and had no option but to fight to protect his reputation. Unfortunately it has had the reverse outcome.
Sadly, he doesn’t appear to be changing his approach, so is either being bull-headed about this or being poorly advised. I thought I would look at what I think are the top 3 apologies of all time and then my top 3 approaches to saying “Sorry”.
So my top 3, Ooops I erred….
Tiger Woods: Another one of my all-time heroes. Tiger to a worldwide audience said “I have let my family down, and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart. I have not been true to my values and the behaviour my family deserves. I am not without faults and I am far short of perfect.” Whilst it felt at the time like a bid to hang on to his sponsors and retain a shred of reputation, I think in hindsight it was his way of saying I am just human and I mess up like everyone else. But it was the end of Tiger at his pomp.
Bill Clinton: Arguably the last great Presidential statesmen after a lot of ducking and diving came up with “Indeed I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong … I misled people, including even my wife. I deeply regret that.” I think the issue people at the time and probably to this day have, is that it was regret rather than an apology. There is a marked difference.
Rupert Murdoch: His parliamentary select committee apology for phone hacking made the Australian tycoon seem a little human, he took out full page adverts in a number of newspapers and said “We’re sorry” it would have been good if it was I’m sorry, but I will give him that one.
So you screwed up, how do you quickly sort things out?
Here’s my top 3 ways to resolve things;
- Accept responsibility and express regret. I received an apology last week that went… “David, I’m sorry that I couldn’t make the meeting BUT…” generally people don’t hear the rest so just stop at sorry
- Outline how you came up short and most importantly how you will change moving forward
- Lastly, ask for forgiveness.
As someone who is quite experienced in having to say Sorry, I hope a few of these might help you, but DON’T follow another of my all-time heroes PG Wodehouse when he famously said “It is a good rule in life never to apologise..” I beg to disagree PG.